Imagine a snowy mountain that is also in a town. We can go there, get outfitted for trail exploration, visit a mountain that is just wild enough, and come back to enjoy a cup of cocoa at a beautiful little lodge.
Well, we have it, only one mile from downtown. It's Dewey Mountain Recreation Area. As they like to say, "thirteen is your lucky number." Dewey grooms that many kilometers of trail, all winter. We can enjoy classic Nordic or skate skiing. We can even ski at night on the lower, lit, trails.
Move higher up the mountain for some ungroomed backcountry trails in a wild forest. We can go all the way to the top of the mountain, and add summitting to our day's adventures.
Ski and snowshoe rentals are available by the day and half-day, and a day pass is only $5. It all adds up to a very affordable day of family fun. Bring a lunch and enjoy a break in their light-filled new lodge.
We love easy.
Begin with civilization
One of the great things about Dewey is how friendly and approachable it is. This is a hometown complex that is a real treasure. Show up with gear, or without. We can take care of you either way.
We're a town who loves enjoying winter, and it shows. The new lodge has one wall of windows overlooking the forested mountain slope. Here's a great place to enjoy a hot cup-of-something and a good heart-to-heart chat.
The lodge was a town project. Over five hundred and fifty households and businesses contributed funding, labor, and discounted supplies. The main lodge is two thousand square feet, which includes a wax/bike room, partial kitchen, great room, storage rooms, restrooms, and team areas.
As far back as 1937, local guidebooks were directing people to trails on Dewey Mountain. But thanks to generations of effort, the trail network is now well-established and covers one whole side of the mountain, all the way to the top.
Well-marked and fully groomed trails accommodate a wide variety of skill and enjoyment. The ski and skate trails are separate from the snowshoe trails. Just notice the intersections and choose the trail that matches your gear.
Explore the wild
Getting out on a great Alpine day, or even a halfway-great one, does wonders for us. There is something both gorgeous and glorious about the woods in winter.
It is a different auditory experience: the blanket of snow muffles some sounds, and can make others sharper, like birdsong. It is a different look to the forest, as the deciduous trees are no longer blocking the sunlight as they do in summer. There's also reflections from the snow to add more brightness to the scene.
If we've never hiked the woods in winter, we might be startled at how delightfully different it can be.
Research conducted at the University of Essex showed that the color green, such as that found on trees, grass, and other plants in nature, makes exercise feel easier. The small study tested cyclists pedaling in front of green, gray, and red images. Those exercising in front of the green showed less mood disturbances and reported that they felt lower exertion during their cycling. This ties in with research that indicates gym time is seen as a chore; getting outside is seen as fun.
I certainly see it that way when I get out on the mountain. From enjoying the singing of the birds, to identifying tracks in the snow, at Dewey I feel and see the presence of the wild environment around us.
So the benefits of getting out and moving leads to us enjoying ourselves when we are actually out in nature. Which is why we do it. Enjoying a gorgeous winter day is a treat in itself. But that's not all.
Just being outside in the fresh mountain air does wonders; even if all we do is take a leisurely walk in it. It sounds too good to be true.
Turns out, such a contrast with our usual controlled climate can do wonders for our health. Ramping up our body's adjustments to the cold can take place almost invisibly; but it increases our circulatory health and also our ability to burn body fat. Everybody wants that.
Ray Cronise is a former NASA scientist. After 15 years of conducting experiments at the Marshall Space Flight Center that illustrated how the body responds to extreme conditions, he developed a theory on health that concluded: "We're overlit, overfed, and overstimulated."
In an interview for Men's Journal, Cronise explains that our bodies have a bit of trouble with too much civilization. "We're living in an eternal summer and missing out on metabolic winter," a regearing time that lets the body adjusts to change of climate. When we lose seasonal variation, the result is obesity and chronic disease.
As I tell my friends, when we get out there, dressed properly and enjoying ourselves, it doesn't feel cold at all. Especially if we are enjoying some kind of activity that revs up our body's natural warming responses. Talk about invigorating. It was true back in the tuberculosis curing days, and it's true now.
Saranac Lake is good for us!
Back at the lodge
The great thing about the Adirondacks is that we don't have to stray far from civilization to reap the benefits of nature. Dewey Mountain offers an entire range of experience and equipment just a few minutes from town.
Dewey has a 440-foot vertical drop -- if we wish to go wild on it. Whatever our speed heading back, we can take some regrouping time at the lodge, using it as a halfway point between the wild experience and the return to civilization.
As seen above, ski orienteering is an endurance winter sport, requiring brains as much as it does brawn. The sport combines navigation and cross-country skiing, requiring prepared ski trails through rough terrain. This fast-growing sport has really become popular the last few years, in Europe and Asia as well as North America.
All that is needed, aside from the usual cross-country ski equipment, is an orienteering map (as seen on the chest of the skier above) and a compass, usually attached on the skier for easy consultation. The skier figures out the fastest distance between control points, based on a special map.
Race against others, or race against ourselves. It's a great way to add excitement to our day.
With a couple of ski mountains right in town, we take full advantage of our cool late winter scene. Anyone can!